Indian police use tear gas, water cannons against protesting farmers

Farmers equipped with cranes, excavators, gas masks run away and come back.

SHAMBHU (Reuters): Indian police fired tear gas and water cannons on Wednesday to scatter thousands of farmers trying to stage a protest march to Delhi.

The action was taken after they rejected a government offer on prices for their produce, prompting an offer of fresh talks.

The farmers, mostly from the northern state of Punjab, have been demanding higher prices backed by law for their crops. They form an influential bloc of voters Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot afford to anger ahead of general elections due by May.

Fleeing the tear gas and clouds of smoke, the farmers, some wearing medical masks, ran into fields surrounding their gathering-point on a highway about 200 km (125 miles) north of the capital New Delhi.

When they tried to regroup, police fired more tear gas shells at them.

At another protest site about 100 km away, video clips on local media showed police using water cannons and farmers aiming a hose pipe of water at them.

The police action came as Modi’s government made a new offer to resume talks on farmers’ demand for guaranteed crop prices.

“The government is ready to discuss all the issues,” Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda posted on social network X.

“I again invite the farmer leaders for discussion. It is important for us to maintain peace.”

Farmers’ leader Sarwan Singh Pandher told reporters they would discuss how to respond. On Monday, the farmers’ groups had rejected the government’s previous proposal for five-year contracts and guaranteed support prices for produce such as corn, cotton and pulses.

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